B-1/2 vs. F-1 Visas to the USA

us state dept seal.pngThe adjusted refusal rate for B (tourist/business) visas issued to Vietnamese citizens in 2018 was 26.2%, which means the issuance rate was 73.8%. I wish we had access to the same information for F-1 (student) visas broken down by state and even institution and type of institution.  

Student visa issuance rates are generally quite a bit lower, more so at the US Consulate in HCMC than the US Embassy in Hanoi.  I’ve heard of issuances rates ranging from less than 50% to over 75%.  I work with a number of secondary and four-year institutions that boast an issuance rate of 100% in Viet Nam.  

Other foreign governments do a much better job of sharing this important information. For example, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently released information indicating that the refusal rate from 1 January to 31 May of this year for Viet Nam was 55% compared to 15% for China and 36% for India.  In 2018, it was 22% for Viet Nam.  

As I’ve mentioned to a number of US colleagues and journalists, the only way to obtain this information is through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  It shouldn’t be this hard.  These are not state secrets after all.  I recently heard from one colleague who filed a FOIA request.  I look forward to seeing the results.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report- Department of Homeland Security

DHS logoA colleague recently sent me this report with the above title.  (Thank you, K!)  Yeah, I know; it’s not most people’s idea of a good time but it is interesting to wonks like me who follow these trends in the field (and industry) of international education.  Information is power, right?  OK, if not power, then at least it has the potential to give you more insights and the ability to make more accurate predictions than a crystal ball.

Here’s an excerpt from the report about the purpose of providing this data, at least on an annual basis:  This report analyzes the overstay rates to provide a better understanding of those who overstay and remain in the United States beyond their period of admission with no evidence of an extension to their period of admission or adjustment to another immigration status.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has determined that there were 50,437,278 in-scope nonimmigrant admissions to the United States through air or sea POEs who were expected to depart in FY 2016, which represents the majority of annual nonimmigrant admissions. Of this number, DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.47 percent, or 739,478 individuals. In other words, 98.53 percent of the in-scope nonimmigrant visitors departed the United States on time and abided by the terms of their admission

There are two categories: total overstay rate and suspected overstay rate.  Think of the latter as the net version of the former.  As the report points out, its purpose is “to provide a better picture of those overstays who remain in the United States beyond their period of admission and for whom there is no identifiable evidence of a departure, an extension of period of admission, or transition to another immigration status.”  In other words, these are the people who have simply disappeared, presumably to surface later with legal status.  Or not.  

At the end of FY 2016, there were 628,799 Suspected In-Country Overstays. The overall Suspected In-Country Overstay rate for this type of traveler is 1.25% of the expected departures.  When you consider that over 50 million foreigner visitors entered the US in FY16 and that 98.75% of them did indeed return home, that’s not too shabby.

The report is broken down into “nonimmigrants admitted to the United States for business or pleasure, i.e., B1 and B2 visas, and student and exchange visitors (F, M, and J visas).  The average suspected in-country overstay rate for FY 2016, excluding Canada, Mexico, and students, was 1.90%. 

sample visaFor Viet Nam it was 3.40%, or 79% higher than the national average.

Student and Exchange Visitor Visas (F, M, J) Excluding Canada and Mexico

Just to give you an idea of how Viet Nam compares to many other countries with students studying in the US, here is a list of some with much higher overstay rates in descending order.  Asian countries are in navy blue.

  1. Eritrea: 75.21% (117)
  2. Burkina Faso: 46.78% (699)
  3. Chad: 36.77% (68)
  4. Congo (Kinshasa): 36.56% (517)
  5. Djibouti: 33.33% (21)
  6. Libya: 31.85% (1,036)
  7. Congo (Brazzaville): 23.88% (201)
  8. Equatorial Guinea: 20.42% (284)
  9. Côte d’Ivoire: 17.09% (755)
  10. Ethiopia: 21.71% (1,110)
  11. Fiji: 15.84% (101)
  12. Gabon: 23.40% (406)
  13. The Gambia: 29.08% (196)
  14. Benin: 31.25% (400)
  15. Cameroon: 28.68% (889)
  16. North Korea: 27.27% (11)
  17. Togo: 26.14% (176)
  18. Guinea: 26.12% (157)
  19. Central African Republic: 25.93% (127)
  20. Moldova: 25.49% (2,299)
  21. Nepal: 23.50% (2,873)
  22. Nigeria: 22.74% (8,034)
  23. Bhutan: 22.42% (165)
  24. Burundi: 20.96% (167)
  25. Somalia: 20.00% (25)
  26. Cabo Verde: 18.40% (125)
  27. Mali: 17.19% (349)
  28. Iraq: 16.54% (1,300)
  29. Afghanistan: 15.83% (556)
  30. Kyrgyzstan: 14.41% (666)
  31. Malawi: 14.40% (250)
  32. Tajikistan: 13.37% (486)
  33. Liberia: 13.30% (218)
  34. Ukraine: 12.90% (826)
  35. Senegal: 12.59% (657)
  36. Guinea-Bissau: 12.50% (8)
  37. Serbia: 12.46% (4,800)
  38. Kenya: 12.28% (2,326)
  39. Niger: 12.07% (174)
  40. Papua New Guinea: 12.03% (158)
  41. Tonga: 11.29% (176)
  42. Bangladesh: 11.03% (3,237)
  43. Macedonia: 10.98% (1,658)
  44. Uganda: 10.65% (3,273)
  45. Syria: 10.35% (599)
  46. Sudan: 10.30% (304)
  47. Rwanda: 9.73% (997)
  48. Haiti: 9.67% (982)
  49. Uzbekistan: 9.48% (1,181)
  50. Mongolia: 9.44% (2,399)
  51. Zambia: 9.42% (414)
  52. Mauritania: 9.40% (117)
  53. Timor-Leste: 9.38% (32)
  54. Turkmenistan: 9.16% (371)
  55. Maldives: 8.11% (74)
  56. Sri Lanka: 8.74% (1,774)
  57. Burma (Myanmar):  8.59% (1,036)
  58. Namibia: 8.63% (139)
  59. Albania: 8.34% (779)
  60. Viet Nam: 8.15% (14,878)

Several points stand out. 

  1. While Viet Nam is at the lower end of the spectrum among these 60 countries in terms of percentage, it has one of the highest suspected in-country overstay rates in Asia.  In terms of numbers, 1,213 young Vietnamese were out-of-status last year.  Compare that to China, which ranks first in the number of students it sends to the US with 360,334 last year.  The suspected in-country overstay rate was only 2.09%.  The days of the brain drain are clearly over.  It’s obvious that quite a few young Vietnamese are using the F-1 (in most cases) as a backdoor means of emigration.  (This assertion is also based on anecdotal evidence.)
  2. Many of these countries have relatively few students in the US, i.e., fewer than 500.
  3. Many of the countries are war-torn and/or desperately poor, due to war and other factors.

Keep in mind that this percentage is higher in some parts of Viet Nam than others, i.e., those with people who have relatives in the US, mostly in the former Republic of Viet Nam (South Vietnam).  These data are reported to the US Mission, the Consulate in HCMC, in particular, and could have an impact on consular officers’ decisions for applicants coming from areas with a higher overstay rate.

Note:  Whenever I deal with statistics, I’m often reminded of the following quote, which was popularized by Mark Twain, who attributed it to the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  Not included in the above statistics are international students who remain in the country legally, e.g., through marriage or a work (H1-B) visa.  Thus, neither country really knows how many young Vietnamese come home after completing their studies and/or an Optional Practical Training (OPT) work experience on a F-1 visa.  Another unknown variable is the number of graduates to move to a third country for study or work.    

MAA